The Criminal Code of Canada says that recorded footage can be used as evidence in litigation, since it provides proof of the crime and identifies the suspect.
Using cameras to tape employee’s’ actions in Canadian workplaces isn’t uncommon. They’re usually used to stop stealing, destroying company property, assault and sexual harassment. But, Canadian courts haven’t been lenient with employers installing surveillance cameras simply to spy on employees without good reason.
Do employers have to tell employees video surveillance is being used?
Employers using video surveillance in a general area should post easily readable notices and signs in an apparent area saying the area is being monitored so they know it isn’t a private area. Signs and notices should be written in English and French.
Using surveillance in non-unionized workplaces
Surveillance is probably justified if used to ascertain whether or not criminal activity is taking place. The primary question is often whether employees expected reasonable privacy.
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been used to protect workers’ privacy in non-unionized settings. If an employee is “caught on tape” committing a crime, it could be argued at a criminal trial he expected some reasonable privacy in the circumstances (for instance, in an employee washroom) and his right to privacy had been denied.
If the court believed the worker’s privacy rights had been infringed upon and threw the videotape evidence out, the employee accused of wrongdoing may be found not guilty, even if he or she is.
Surveillance in unionized workplaces
Unionized employees should see what their collective agreements have to say about management’s use of video surveillance to watch employees.
In a union debate, a labour arbitrator, not the courts, fashion the rules about the use of surveillance. Labour arbitrators usually look at the following questions when deciding if they should view the employer’s surveillance tape of a unionized worker:
- Did management have cause, in all cases, to request video surveillance of the worker?
- Was surveillance conducted in a reasonable manner?
- Were other options open to management to get proof of inappropriate behaviour? Did the employer absolutely have to videotape the employee?
Many surveillance cameras can also record sound. Taping private conversations without consent is a criminal offence. In Canada, surveillance cameras can’t be used to record sound. Only movement can be recorded – not audio.
The professionals at a.p.i. Alarm Inc. would be happy to answer any questions you have regarding video surveillance and the workplace. Give us a call today.